Oman Joins The GCC Rail Pack
Work on the inter- Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rail network is gaining momentum. Last week, the Jordanian Ministry of Transport approved plans to build a 509km rail corridor in a bid to integrate its domestic network with Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC region. Then, on February 12 2013, Oman floated the tender for their US$1.5bn, 1,061km piece of the puzzle.
|Oman Stepping Up To The Plate|
|GCC Rail Network|
The GCC network, a decade in the planning, has faced many delays . D espite the affluence of many of its members and a number of ambitious airport developments, the rail-network has largely been left on the backburner. Having been i nitiated in 2004, the line is eventually due to stretch more than 2,000km from Kuwait's border with Iraq down to Salalah in the southern tip of Oman. Total cost is estimated at US$25bn, including US$4bn in land purchases. There are plans to eventually connect the GCC railway with lines that are under construction in the Levant, eventually linking the Gulf to Europe though an uninterrupted rail network.
To date, not much track has been laid (the only operating major rail systems in the GCC are the 60-year-old freight and passenger link between Riyadh and the port of Dammam in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Dubai metro). That said, on the back of the Jordanian news, the release of Oman's preliminary design tender, and the ground gained at the 93rd ministerial meeting of the GCC Finance and Economic Cooperation (where the GCC rail project was a hot topic).
Many hurdles still remain, with slow-moving bureaucracy being one of them. Furthermore, and as previously mentioned there is a significant challenge in making six distinct national rail systems compatible with each other. Yet once again we are seeing positive steps forwards. The Omani transport ministry had previously announced that their country's trains would run on electricity, whilst other GCC states had agreed on ones powered by diesel. However, in a statement, the Omani government abandoned this idea and is now on board to use diesel-based traction engines.
There is certainly a long way to go; however, overall, the GCC rail project appears to be back on track.